The Shiva Purana (English translation)

by J. L. Shastri | 1970 | 616,585 words

This page relates “goal of yoga” as found in the Shiva-purana, which, in Hinduism, represents one of the eighteen Mahapuranas. This work eulogizes Lord Shiva as the supreme deity, besides topics such as cosmology and philosophy. It is written in Sanskrit and claims to be a redaction of an original text consisting of 100,000 metrical verses.

Chapter 37 - The Goal of Yoga

Sri Kṛṣṇa said:—

1. Everything mentioned succinctly by your holiness with regard to knowledge, rites and activities, after taking out the essence, has been heard by me. It is as sacred as the Vedas.

2. Now I wish to hear about Yoga which is very difficult to achieve along with its authorisation, ancillaries, injunctions and purpose.

3-4. If death were to overtake before, it can be averted without resorting to the practices of penance, by taking recourse to Yoga whereby the man avoids becoming a self-killer. Hence it behoves you to mention factually the different types of Yoga and their relative importance, cause, time and procedure.

Upamanyu said:—

5. O Kṛṣṇa, the question has been pertinently put by you who understand the meaning of all questions. Hence I shall mention everything in order. Listen attentively.

6-7. All other activities are restrained and the mind kept steady in Śiva. This is succinctly called Yoga. It is of five types: Mantrayoga, Sparśayoga, Bhāvayoga, Abhāvayoga and Mahāyoga which is greater than everything.

8. The concentration of the mind without disturbances, on the expressed meaning of the mantra along with the practice of the mantra is mantrayoga.

9. Coupled with Prāṇāyāma the same is called sparśayoga. Without the contact of Mantra, it is Bhāvayoga.

10. Wherein the universe with all its parts is meditated upon it is called Abhāvayoga since in that the existent object is not seen.

11. Wherein the nature of Śiva is contemplated without any conditioning or restricting factor, the concentration of the mind on Śiva is called Mahāyoga.

12. In this Yoga only he is authorised whose mind is detached from the perceived and Veda-ordained objects of pleasure.

13. The mind is detached only on perceiving the defects in the objects and in the attributes of the lord, perpetually.

14-15. In brief the Yoga is of eight or six ancillaries. The eight ancillaries are Yama, Niyama, Āsana Prāṇāyāma, Pratyāhārā, Dhāraṇa, Dhyānā and Samādhi as mentioned by the wise.

16. The six Aṅgas are in brief Āsana, Prāṇasaṃrodha, Pratyāhāra, Dhāraṇā, Dhyāna and Samādhi.

17-18. The definitions of all these separately have been mentioned in Śivaśāstra and other Śaivite scriptures, especially Kāmikā etc. They are mentioned in Yogaśāstras and Purāṇas also. Yama is the observance of restraints such as nonviolence, non-stealing, abstention from sexual intercourse and non-acceptance of monetary gifts. The five constitute the subdivisions of Yama.

19. Niyama is the positive curb or restraint with the following five subdivisions—purity, contentment, penance, japa and attentiveness.

20. Āsana is the Yogic pose and is of eight types such as Svastika, Padma, Ardhendu, Vīra, Yoga, Prasādhita, Paryaṅka and Yatheṣṭa.

21. Prāṇa is the vital breath in the body. Āyāma is checking. Hence Prāṇāyāma means checking or restraining the breath. It is of three forms—Recaka, Pūraka and Kumbhaka.

22. One of the nostrils is pressed with the finger and the air from the belly is let out through the other. This is Recaka (Exhaling).

23. Then through the other nostril the external air is inhaled and the body is filled up like the bellows. It is Pūraka (Inhaling).

24. He does not breathe out the internal or breathe in the external air. He remains steady like the fìlled-up jar. It is called Kumbhaka (Retention).

25. The three, Recaka etc. shall not be done hurriedly or slowly. The practiser of Yoga shall adopt them gradually with restraint.

26. The practice of Recaka shall begin with the purification of the veins and conclude with its voluntary exit as mentioned in the Yogānuśāsana.

27. Prāṇāyāma is one of the four varieties in view of the time-units, Kanyaka etc.

28. Kanyaka is without Udghāta (strokes). Its duration is twelve Mātrās. Madhyama has two strokes, its duration is twenty-four Mātrās.

29. Uttama has three strokes and its duration is thirty-six Mātrās. Uttara is the Prāṇāyāma that causes perspiration and trembling of the body.

30. The yogin has experiences—the thrill of bliss, horripilation and shedding of tears. He may prattle. There may be vertigo and senselessness.

31. Mātrā is the unit of time required for the snapping of the fingers after moving them round the knees neither speedily nor slowly.

32. The duration of Prāṇāyāma shall be increased in accordance with the Mātrās and strokes. The veins shall be necessarily purified.

33. The Prāṇāyāma is again twofold: Agarbha and Sagarbha. Restraining the breath without meditation and Japa is called Agarbha Prāṇāyāma. If they too are included it is called Sagarbha.

34. The Sagarbha Prāṇāyāma is hundred times more efficacious than the Agarbha. Yogins practise Sagarbha Prāṇāyāma.

35-36. The vital breaths of the body can be conquered through the mastery over Prāṇa. The vital breaths are Prāṇa, Apāna, Samāna, Udāna, Vyāna, Nāga, Kūrma, Kṛkara, Devadatta and Dhanañjaya.[1] That which causes the movement is called Prāṇa.

37. Apāna is the vital air that takes the food lower down. Vyāna is diffused through the limbs and it develops them.

38. Udāna is the vital air that affects the vulnerable points in the body among the limbs. The vital air that spreads equally is called Samāna.

39. The vital air Nāga is for the activity of belching. Kūrma is for the activity of dosing the eyes; the vital air Kṛkara is the activity of sneezing and the vital air Devadatta is the activity of yawning.

40. Dhanañjaya is the vital air that circulates through the body. It does not leave off even the dead body. Gradually practised, Prāṇāyāma is very efficacious.

41. It burns off all defects. It preserves the body of practisers. When the Prāṇa is mastered the symptoms are manifest.

42-44. Urine, phlegm and faeces are reduced in quantity. Ability to eat much and to breathe slowly, lightness of the body, ability to walk fast, enthusiasm, clearness of voice and tone, destruction of ailments, strength, brilliance, comeliness of features, courage, intelligence, youthfulness, firmness and all round pleasure these are the symptoms. All forms of austerities, expiations, sacrifices, charitable gifts, holy rites do not merit even a sixteenth part of the benefit of Prāṇāyāma.

45-47. The total withdrawal of the sense-organs operating in their respective objects is called Pratyāhāra. The sense-organs are the mind etc. They are capable of according heaven and hell. When restrained they yield heaven, when let loose they are hellish. Hence the intelligent man who seeks happiness shall have recourse to perfect knowledge and detachment, and lift up his soul through his own soul after carefully restraining the horses of his sense-organs.

48-50. In brief, what is called Dhāraṇā is the fixation of the mind in a spot. The spot is Śiva alone and nothing else. The Dhāraṇā shall take place when the mind is established in the spot for a stipulated duration and when it does not swerve from the target. The initial stability of the mind is generated through Dhāraṇā. Hence one shall endow the mind with fortitude by the practice of Dhāraṇā.

51-56. The root ‘Dhyai’ means to contemplate. Frequent contemplation of Śiva with an unconfounded mind is called Dhyāna. It is a series of visions in the mind that is fixed on the object of meditation to the exclusion of other visions. Eschewing everything else, Śiva, the cause of auspiciousness, the great lord of the gods, shall be meditated upon. Thus concludes the Atharvaveda. Similarly the great goddess Śivā shall be meditated upon. In the Vedas Śiva and Śivā are mentioned as pervading all living beings. In the Smṛtis and Śāstras they are mentioned as present everywhere and awakened always. They are omniscient. They shall always be meditated upon in different forms. There are two benefits accruing from meditation, the first one being freedom from other visions and the second one the acquisition of Siddhis, Aṇimā etc.

57. The knower of Yoga shall practise Yoga with the knowledge of four things—the meditator, the meditation, the object of meditation and the benefit of meditation.

58. The meditator shall be a man who is endowed with knowledge and detachment, who is faithful, patient, who is free from ego and who is always enthusiastic.

59. A person who is tired of Japa shall begin meditation. A person who is tired of meditation shall begin Japa. A person who practises Japa and Dhyāna acquires Yoga quickly.

60. Dhāraṇā extends upto the twelve-petalled lotus of the heart. Dhyāna is the fixation of the Dhāraṇā in the twelve-petalled lotus. When Dhyāna extends to the twelve-petalled lotus it is called Samādhi.

61. Samādhi is the final state of Yoga. Through Samādhi, the lustre of intellect begins to function.

62. In Samādhi, the vision is steady like the calm ocean, the form vanishes but the vision persists.

63. Fixing the mind in the object of meditation he shall see it steadily. The Yogin thus like the fire extinguished is absorbed in Samādhi.

64. He neither hears nor smells nor prattles nor sees nor feels the touch. The mind docs not think.

65. Nor does he identify with anything external. Nor is it bound like the inanimate log of wood. A person whose Ātman has thus merged into Śiva is called Samādhistha.

66. Just as the lamp in a windless spot never flickers so also is the Yogin who is Samādhistha, An intelligent man shall not swerve. He shall be steady.

67. All his obstacles and hindrances perish gradually if the Yogin practises the excellent Yoga.

Footnotes and references:


The vital airs of the body, Prāṇa, Apāna and others, ten in number, play a distinct role in the general yogic exercises. The practices of these airs constitute an important feature of Śivayoga too. The present context describes the various processes in regulating the function of vital airs as a part of Śivayoga.